Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Love Shown in an International Way – SC2013

As we go on each day, sometimes we still close our eyes, search our hearts and reminisce about the days when we felt the selfless agape love, warm hugs and inspiring stories that never failed to strengthen us. Those were the days when kingdom smiles were a part of our attires and such days truly marked an exceptional milestone in our lives.

More than 2 weeks have already passed but we still cannot get over the international brotherhood we experienced. The Special Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses 2013 held in Manila, Philippines was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the local Filipinos as they get to portray their inherent hospitality and warmth. It was, however, an experience that created a permanent mark in the hearts of delegates from USA, Indonesia, Vietnam, and other countries; as they experienced the look-and-feel of Filipino culture and ministry.

As a couple, we made ourselves available for pre/post-convention activities. Months of training, orientations, meetings and personal study prepared us to become equipped with the right skills and tools. Have I mentioned that our roles as volunteers were not ‘inherently’ owned? But with the guidance of the Special Convention Desk and with Jehovah’s help, we were able to do our share. Staying late until the wee hours of the morning welcoming delegates at the airport was a very challenging but fun-filled experience. We had to ensure that we abide by the necessary permits and limitations at the airport. The flight itinerary was a necessity as we have to ensure that the delegates arrive safely in Manila. When we saw badge cards and kingdom smiles, which is worthy of notice, it seemed that we all gained a big amount of energy that we jumped, waved and zealously displayed the banner which says “WELCOME DELEGATES!” We then led them to the hotel lounges for them to be safely transported to respective hotels.

On some days, we became part of the Welcome Desk at The Bellevue Manila Hotel. The ‘graveyard shift’, as we call it, was an assignment that required considerable physical and mental effort. There were days when we went straight to this assignment coming from our secular jobs. It was quite challenging as sometimes we get to stay until the clock ticked early morning. But it was all worth it when we saw the foreign delegates arrive with a beaming face and a story to tell from various parts of the world. We ensured that they were provided with the welcome kit, inclusive of tokens and necessary items that they’ll need for their stay. In case the delegates have inquiries about a certain activity or so, member of the Welcome Desk were always available at the hotel lobby. During these times, a simple “Thank you/ Terima kasih/ Cám ơn” was all enough to wipe the drowsiness away. Some even tried their own version of “Salamat!”. Every arrival of a group seemed to add an ounce of strength as we stayed awake all night. I cannot forget how one American sister, weary and tired from a 25-hour flight, handed out a calling card to me. Upon looking at it, the word “PAG-IBIG!” was written to show how much we meant to her. She has studied this certain Filipino word and sketched it upon arrival just for the volunteers. How heartwarming!

The delegates were also given options to go on tours (City Tour, Bethel and Assembly Hall, Hidden Valley or Corregidor Island and Las Casas Tour). A day before the convention, we were assigned to be tour guides for the Corregidor & Las Casas Tour. This was one great responsibility as we had to secure the safety of the delegates and ensure that the trip would be a successful and seamless one. We headed on to Corregidor and Las Casas de Azucar in Bataan. A bus ride, followed by a more-than-an-hour- ferry ride, and then a jeepney ride; made the trip an unforgettable one for delegates. As tour guides, we had to ensure that our commentaries present a 70-30 content (70% theocratical and 30% secular info). A family worship (inclusive of games and stories) was also conducted during the ferry ride. Food was abundant (not to mention the surprise cultural dance in Las Casas restaurant), weather was great and the Bataan local congregation was very accommodating. During the trip, personal talks with each of the delegates also paved the way for more commentaries - sharing experiences in the ministry and how each of us overcame challenges in our service. One certain tête-à-tête with an Indonesian teenager delegate inspired me to look for territories where the need is greater. She mentioned about how Muslims (majority of population in Indonesia) were interested, not in the Bible, but in current affairs. They use that common ground for interested ones to learn the truth. I also shared with her the jail ministry which I have tried (and how some inmates were baptized upon studying the Bible). It was a joy to be with someone from a different country and background, but shares the same theocratic goal with you. Time was not enough as we already arrived at our destination, but that less-than-an-hour connection built the bridge for our international friendship.

We were aware of the fact that the jeepney ride was bumpy, the ferry ride caused nausea to many and that at times, the sun was extremely hot for long walks. However, these things did not hinder the group from enjoying the Filipino culture as reflected by the ruins in Corregidor and the ancient Spanish architecture in Las Casas. But most important of all, it was a joy to see ‘how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.’ (Psalms 133:1)

What happened on the 3-day convention in Cuneta Astrodome was beyond words (and beyond pictures!). The spiritual feast was bountiful and it really proved that “God’s Word is Truth.”

 On the last day of the convention, an Evening Gathering was held at Bellevue for some delegates. Registration started at 6PM but as early as 4PM, delegates were ready to register and enter the ballroom! Way too excited! It was really a privilege to be part of this event. The Entertainment Group (from various congregations) practiced for months and devoted their resources to be able to make the delegates feel accommodated. Song Number 134 was played and every single attendee of the gathering sang their hearts out. Tears of joy and laugher filled the air. We realized that the official convention week had ended, but the memories remained.

As the delegate sister seated next to me said, “I am sooo happy! When I get back home in the States, I cannot fully explain the total experience and the feeling I had. All I can do is show them the pictures and share the stories. But the real experience? It’s here. And I will forever treasure it! I love Philippines!”
True enough.

From time to time, my husband and I still reminisce these experiences. Sometimes we found ourselves teary-eyed, but most of the time we found ourselves beaming with a Kingdom smile. We look forward to the next international convention or assignment, when we can again express the words “Here I am! Send me!” – Isaiah 6:8 

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Day I Said Yes

Let’s do a flashback to the same date exactly a year ago.

The setting was the beautiful island of Guimaras; a hidden paradise in Iloilo. The weather was perfect for an island hopping adventure and so our group (composed of family and friends) decided to discover what the islands of Guimaras had to offer. As we rode into the waters, I was reminded me of CamSur and Palawan’s beauty as we explore caves and lagoons. Being a nature-lover who marvels every time the travel bugs bite, I beamed at how the day proved to be extraordinary. Little did I know that it would be more than extraordinary.

We reached a huge rock formation leading to a hidden passageway. Upon entrance, one can see a cave with the corals and sparkling waters underneath. It was such a marvelous sight. The group decided to swim and some even dared to dive on top of the rock formation. Nothing to worry though, as the boat guides assured us it was safe. Suddenly, I felt something weird with the guys. They seemed to be agitated and stared glances at each other every now and then. Shrugging off my shoulders, I just swam and enjoyed the moment.

Then came the darkening clouds and little by little, raindrops started to grow into a downpour. We managed to rush on to other islands and finally headed back to shore. As soon as we landed in Raymen Beach Resort (owned by a Witness family), the guys requested us to stay for a while and rest on the shore. As the sun was about to set, all of us ladies decided to go into our rooms, clean up and have dinner afterwards.

After dinner, we met with the family who owned the resort. It was a great opportunity to hear how these fellow Witnesses faced hardships in life and still stayed strong in faith. Then came the ‘extraordinary’ moment.

Finally the guys succeeded in bringing us to the shore for a stargazing experience (as they say). The girls were also exchanging glances by then and I realized that only my mom and I were clueless. It turned out that there was a surprise for both of us.

Reggie stepped forward, made an announcement for everyone to listen, and acted as if he’s leading a family worship (looked to me that way back then). He then said a few lines talking about how we have grown matured enough for the past years. Yes, matured in all aspects – physically, financially, emotionally, intellectually, and most important of all, spiritually. To my readers, I am sorry to have not documented every single line as by then the lines became blurry as the world spun around me. The only clear words I heard was:

“Will you marry me?”

Something seemed to block my throat and speechless as I was, I just stared while he held a sparkling ring in front of me. A moment of silence followed. Then, I looked at my mom and she broke the silence saying “Isuot mo na!” (Wear it!”). Everyone laughed, but the mixed emotions Reggie and I felt that night was connected into a tight, warm hug. Teary-eyed, I wore the ring which perfectly fitted my finger.

Yes, that more-than-extraordinary night may have started a lot of changes, but the bliss it has caused will never ever be forgotten.

P.S. Only a selected few knew this story before our wedding. This is a story that was never published (until today).

Actual shot of the proposal scene - thanks to great friends :)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sand Castles No More

When we were still young, one of the things we look forward to every time we go to the beach was the ‘sand castle experience’. We got to build our own castle, strengthened it with unlimited layers of fortress, and enjoyed the freedom of changing its architectural design whenever we want to. The stronger, the better. The higher, the wider our smiles. 

 As we go on with life, we realize that there are things more important than sand castles. We understand that castles are made for real kings and queens and we can get to build our dreams not with real castles, but with our own happy abode. We achieve our goals not with the help of real kings and queens, but with people we appreciate and love most.

We realize that sand can be easily washed away, but memories linger and remain. We observed that some prints are temporary but some we can make permanent. 

I don’t know if realizations like these have something to do with (getting old) growing up, but I do not look forward to sand castles anymore. I look forward to the beach, our own ‘castle’, and the memories that forever will not be washed away.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Szechuan Chili Ginger Garlic Chicken Meal

A good friend once gave me this wonderful piece of advice: “The more
flavor, the better.” Elaborately, she said that if a meal is bursting with
flavors, not only did it smell appetizing but satisfies the tummy also.
Therefore, I incorporated this gastronomic tidbit into our meals. Here’s
what I made for a Friday the 13th dinner: Spicy Szechuan Chili Ginger
Garlic Chicken
! I added a touch of green and healthy stuffs with buttered
cauliflower, carrot shake and our regular stuff – the brown rice.

If you’re a lover of spicy and flavorful dishes, here’s one perfect meal for you.

Regular updates on cooking milestones coming up!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Grab a Handful of Goodies

A boy, a handful of goodies and a grocery owner.

These were the main subjects of a story I heard last Sunday. Sharing with you a simple story which can have big impact on our lives.

There was a little boy who loves to go to the grocery with his mom.  Every time he lays his eyes on the enticing sweets, colorful candies and various displays of yummy goodies, he can’t help but demand never-ending ‘buy-this-and-buy-that’ statements.

One day, the mom told the boy that she’s going to the grocery. Big-eyed and very much excited, the boy prepared to go. However, the mom said, “I will not let you come with me, unless you promise me one thing. When you see goodies which you really like, never ask me to buy it for you. Just look at the goodies, but never grab one. Otherwise, you will NO longer come with me to the grocery.”

The boy agreed, made a promise and off they went to the grocery. Drooling over the yummy goodies and seeing mouthwatering chocolates and candies, it was really a challenge for the boy. Nonetheless, he managed to keep his promise and neither grabbed a single stuff nor demanded for a purchase from his mom. Such a good boy!

Unknowingly, his demeanor was being observed by the grocery owner. When the mother and the boy reached the cashier, the grocery owner commended the boy for his behavior, far different from the usual kids who frequent the grocery. He asked why the boy behaved in such manner and the boy’s promised was revealed to him.

Filled with admiration, the owner said, “Since you are a good boy, come and enjoy these candies and goodies. I will let you have them for FREE. Go ahead, grab a handful of sweets!”

What a fine opportunity for the boy! Imagine a handful of sweets for FREE!

The owner insisted, but the boy still refused to grab a handful of sweets. Seeing it was impossible to make the boy grab a handful, the owner himself used his two big hands, grabbed some sweets and put it inside the boy's bag.

After leaving the grocery, mom asked the boy why he was so firm and even made the owner grab the goodies by himself. The boy said with a wink, “Of course Mom, my hands are too small! The grocery owner’s hands are bigger than mine! More candies for me since the grocery owner was the one to get goodies.”

What do we learn from this?
Like the grocery owner, God abundantly provides to those who are patient and meek. When we receive blessings from him, it is worth more than what we can take. Instead of acquiring things fully by our own and relying on our own efforts, let us have trust in God and faith that He will provide the needs of our hearts, abundantly and overflowing. So the next time you pray, remember to keep your promises and ask for His “handful of goodies”. He..."will pour into YOUR laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing." - Luke 6:38

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Top Ten Most Popular Magazines

A study was conducted and results were published featuring the top ten international magazines based on their respective circulation, a variable which is reflective of their popularity.

Guess which ones made it to top spots?

Yes, Watchtower and Awake!

"The Watchtower shows us the significance of world events in the light of Bible prophecies. It comforts people with the good news of God’s Kingdom and promotes faith in Jesus Christ. Awake! shows how to cope with today’s problems and builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world."

These Bible-based magazines are available for download in over 150 languages for free.
Click here to download your own copy of the latest issues.

Enjoy these beneficial and enlightening reads! :)

Monday, July 08, 2013

Sharing the Love (and the Milestone)

It’s been 8 long months since I last posted a public blog entry and mind you, dear friends, there was a valid reason. Sharing with you life’s precious milestone: my transformation from a Miss to a Mrs!

Yes, I just entered married life last 18th of May 2013.

From the day I said “I do” on the shores of Guimaras Island until the first month of living in the South after our wedding, life’s been a busy bee throwing celebrations and challenges here and there. But yes, married life is surely a blast. For the singles out there, I have written wedding preparation tips and supplier reviews in private entries. Just send me a message for the password.

To all readers of this blog, I’d like to share the love encapped in this milestone in the form of videos – our Save the Date (Prenup) and Same Day Edit Wedding Video.

Reggie and Bess Save the Date from The Lightshapers Studios on Vimeo.

Reggie & Bess : Same Day Edit from The Lightshapers Studios on Vimeo.

Credits to:

  • Lightshapers Studio – Video Coverage
  • Kim Tan-Rodriguez – Hair and MakeUp
  • Alfred Nobel Perez – Vintage Cadillac Bridal Car
  • Imbitado Events – On the Day Coordination
  • Purple Dish Catering – Food, etc.
  • Stylento – Event Styling

And the list goes on…

But of course, I warmly thank family and friends for the never-ending support and love shown to us.

Most of all, my gratitude to Jehovah God for being the Originator of Marriage.

The gift of marriage is surely a treasure we will forever keep.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mr. & Mrs.’ Phuket-moon

Google didn’t fail us when we asked him for suggestions on where to go for honeymoon. Phuket came up as one of the frequently-traveled destinations of newlyweds. Phuket (and the whole vast of Thailand) has so much to offer to tourists and true enough, we were able to discover its beauty.

I (almost) felt at home in Phuket since the environment was very much like the Philippines. I thought of the Thai natives as a close relative of the Filipinos because of their warm and hospitable behavior. We stayed in Tropical Garden Resort, Kata Beach in Phuket, thanks to Asiatravel for recommending this hotel on their website. Our room has a sea view which we found very refreshing. After "decades" of preparing for the wedding, this place was worth staying at with the gentle wind blowing the stress away and the beautiful sunset mesmerizing our eyes. The moment was like a pat on the back for a milestone attained.

The hotel management also surprised us with a cute (and romantic) bed arrangement for honeymooners! Other than the beautiful amenities this resort has to offer, their buffet breakfast is something we looked forward to every morning when we woke up. It catered to the Western, Asian (and vegetarian) tastes.

One of the highlights of this escapade was the visit to PhiPhi Island – a pristine paradise silently waiting to be discovered. The water reminds me of El Nido, but the shores remind me of Boracay – with shops everywhere. One has to ride a cruise ship for almost an hour to get to the island. Once on the island, people can shop, eat, buy stuffs, swim or mingle with the locals. The trip to PhiPhi Island was a one-day affair but tourists may extend depending on their plans. 

On the next days of the escapade, we found ourselves busy with elephant riding, visiting talented Thai monkeys, trying out honey delicacies and exploring the bee farm, studying the cashew nut livelihood and trying out Thai food. There was so much to explore, yet time was limited. But of course, the serene times in the beach were my favorite moments.

After five days, it was time to go home. With a heavy heart, we finished going to a few shops and headed on to the airport. We thought the best moment was over but then I suddenly realized that my wallet was missing. We were halfway on our way to the airport when I discovered it was not inside my bag. Good thing my hubby had a reliable memory and we were able to figure out where we left it. Our very kind Thai tour guide brought us back to the place (despite the traffic) and arranged with the airport in case we’d be a little late for the flight. When we arrived at the shop, the Thai owner hurriedly ran to me and said “I was looking all over for you! Here’s your wallet.” My wallet was returned to me and not even a single cent was taken. Tearfully, I said the most heartful “Kappunka” (Thank you in Thai) I ever mentioned. Thai people are worthy of commendation. They restored my confidence in the honesty of other people even in a country not our own and that there is always good in people’s hearts.

It was a joy beyond compare to experience Phuket in just a short time. It was an extraordinary trip because it was our first trip as husband and wife. The beauty of the land and the sterling heart of the people made it even more special.